A lot of 5th wheel and travel trailer RVs come with Dexter axles and use the Dexter EZ Lube system. This system makes it easy to lubricate the bearings without removing the whole hub assembly and repacking them by hand. Dexter recommends lubricating these axles every 12 months or 12,000 miles. I recently performed this maintenance on my 5th wheel. Here’s how I did it and what I learned.
Summary of steps
- Use wheel chocks on opposite side of trailer
- Jack up a wheel enough that it can spin freely
- Remove the cap covering the axle zerk fitting
- Attach grease gun to zerk and start pumping grease while rotating wheel
- Continue pumping grease until the new grease starts coming out the front
- Remove grease gun, wipe away excess grease, and replace cap
- Lower wheel and repeat for the other wheels
What You’ll Need
- Grease gun
- 1 tube of grease per wheel
- Bottle jack
- Wheel chocks
- Flat head screwdriver
- Rags or paper towels
Jacking up the wheel
The process is supposed to be pretty simple. The hardest part was deciding how to jack up the trailer properly.
(Disclaimer: Anything you do to your vehicle or trailer is your decision and I do not accept any responsibility for accidents, mishaps, or damage that may occur if you follow the procedures I’ve listed here.)
Since I had never needed to jack up my trailer before, I wasn’t sure of the best way to do it. The trailer manufacturer says to always lift it by the frame and never raise it by placing a jack under the axle. In practice, the frame on my 5th wheel is 25 inches high and I would likely have to raise it another 10-12 inches to get the tire to come off the ground. I would also need some massive jack stands to safely raise it this high and feel safe working around and under it. This whole idea just seemed dangerouse and unnecessary. And I know the tire shops just jack under the axle with a floor jack.
Some people suggest using a Trailer Aid or Andersen Rapid Jack. These are meant for tandem or triple axle trailers and let you raise a tire off the ground without using a jack at all. You just put the ramp under one tire and drive up. As one tire goes up the ramp, the other tire on the same side of the trailer is lifted off the ground. But I’ve tried these on my 5th wheel and they don’t work. My leaf springs have too much give and the other tire never gets high enough to rise off the ground.
So I just used the bottle jack that came with my truck and placed it under the axle, right under the leaf spring and as close to the tire as possible. Using this method, I only had to move the jack up a few inches before the tire came off the ground. This seemed a lot safer because I was only raising the tire and not the whole trailer. This also meant I didn’t have to hitch up to the truck because there wasn’t any additional strain on the front landing legs.
Greasing the axle
Following Dexter’s recommendation, I used a lithium-based grease from Valvoline that I found at Autozone.
First, remove plastic cap on the end of the axle:
Then remove the rubber cap. This covers the chamber holding the grease and gives you access to the zerk fitting:
Notice the chamber is almost emply. The axles come from the factory with just a little bit of grease in the bearings. The first time you use the EZ Lube feature to fill the axle, it will take a lot of grease. I used about 3/4 of a tube for each wheel.
Attach the grease gun to the zerk, then start pumping grease while rotating the wheel. Continue pumping until grease starts to come out the front around the grease gun. When new grease starts to come out, you can stop pumping.
Wipe away excess grease and replace the rubber and plastic caps.
Video Demonstration Lubricating Axles
This is also a good time to adjust the brakes if necessary. My 5th wheel has electric drum brakes that require occasional adjustment to tighten them. Ajustment is easy and follows the standard procedure for manually adjusting drum brakes.
the whole reason to pull your wheels and hubs off are not to just hand pack your wheel bearing but to make sure your bearings are in good shape if you ever had a bearing come a part you would be pulling your wheels off.
Yes, I agree you need to pull the wheels off and inspect/hand pack the bearing periodically. The EZ Lube mechanism is great for adding new grease on occasion, but I still pull them off once a year to visually inspect the bearings.
My trailer is a 2016 Keystone Alpine.
I followed these directions for lubricating my wheel bears and had the grease push out through the rear seals and contaminate my brakes. The grease once it gets on the shoes, require a total replacement!!! I cannot tell you how to prevent this from happening, but it is better to clean and hand pack your bearings annually!!!
That sucks! How old are your wheels? Are they the EZ Lube axles? I wonder if the seals weaken after they get older. My trailer is 2 years old and this method has worked fine for me. I may do it by hand the next time around though.
i just talked to a Dexter rep and he said if you pushed out your rear seal you DO NOT have EZ lube axles…..They do make an axle with a zerk to grease bearings but you have to be careful and not blow rear seals out….My axle is on a 2003 5th wheel and i have serviced them all these year without blowing out rear seals and the grease does come back out to the front around the zerk thus eliminating blowing out rear seals
Good to know. I’ve never had problems with my rear seals blowing out with the EZ lube axles. I’ve also handpacked the bearings recently and replaced all the rear seals. After doing so, I can confirm those rear seals are super tight and if installed properly, they have a RTV sealant holding them in as well. I would not worry about blowing them out when using the EZ lube method to add more grease.